Ends, Beginnings and Uncertanties, Speech in Skt. Gallen Switzerland

The Past: The Dream

What would we like to do if money were no object?

How would we really enjoy spending our lives?

Let us suppose that every night you could dream any dream you wanted to dream

You now have the power to dream 75, 85, or 100 years of time in one night

On this journey each of us would fulfill all your wishes and desires.

In your dream would have every kind of pleasure and success you could conceive.

You would be born,

You would attend school,

You would have your first kiss,

Your first love,

Your first car,

You would swim for the first time in the sea,

You would ski unskiiable mountains high above the clouds

You would climb the highest peaks,

You would float in space and

See fish swim across the sea floor.

You would marry,

Have a family and see your child’s eyes as you imparted your wisdom unto them and money would never be an object.

Forget the money.

You see, Money is a means to an end.

It will take you where you want to go, but it will not replace you as the driver.

Money is important as a tool.

But if you say that money is the most important thing, you’ll be doing things you don’t like doing to go on living, that is: to go on doing things you don’t like doing.

Which is stupid.

Now, think back to your own childhood….

You were a dreamer…

What were the fascinating things?

What’s out there?

What’s beyond the mountains?

What’s beyond the seas?

What’s beyond the stars?

When a child dreams it is exciting.

It is full of uncertainty, but we are excited…

Its something that never ends.

Yet at the same time, embracing the uncertainty of this very moment is hard isn’t it?

We are often distracted with nostalgia for the past or anxiety over our future.

Yet .. When we play a game and the outcome of the game becomes certain, we at that very moment – cancel the game and begin a new one.

Because the whole excitement of the thing is that you don’t know what the next step is going to be.

If you did know, you wouldn’t take it.

Let’s have a dream which isn’t under control.

Let’s have a dream which is out of control.

You would like that and come out and say wow that was a close shave wasn’t it?

And then you would be dreaming: where you are right now.

You see – A completely predictable future is already the past. You’ve had it already.

** It is your solemn duty to learn how to enjoy yourself. **

The Now: A Sense of Purpose and Enjoyment

Every once in a while a man should stop and look around and ask himself, where am I and where am I going?

And at each moment he is either a King or a slave.

We must always know which we are.

As we surrender to the wrong appetites, to human weakness; as we fall subject any condition, to any environment, to any failure, we are slaves.

Yet as we day by day crush out human weakness,

master opposing elements within ourselves,

and day by day re-create ourselves,

rising from the sin and folly of our past,

—then we are Kings.

We are Kings ruling with wisdom over ourselves, zealously conquering each moment in which we live as that moment arrives.

God will only ask you for one thing when you die, just as he did Alexander the Great –

When I gave you so much, why did you settle for so little?

Because it’s not enough, is it?

Our lives, our careers, even this very moment …

Alexander the Great conquered the whole world except,— Alexander. Emperor of the earth, he was the servile slave of his own passions.

It is far better to have a shorter life as King of yourself – full of the things you like doing than a longer life spent in a miserable way – as a slave to condition and environment — the artificial demands of a facile world

To quote the British Philosopher Alan Watts: ** It is your solemn duty to learn how to enjoy yourself. **


The secret is … your life will be longer anyway.

When you combine a purpose-driven life with happiness you get something the Japanese call Ikigai.

It is your raison d’etre … it is your purpose of being.

In 2004, Dan Buettner, an American explorer teamed up with National Geographic and a team of longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people live measurably longer better.

These places are called Blue Zones

In these “Blue Zones” Dan and his team found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.

After identifying 5 of the world’s Blue Zones, Dan and National Geographic took teams of scientists to each location to identify lifestyle characteristics that might explain longevity.

They found that the lifestyles of all Blue Zones residents shared nine specific characteristics but one moreso than any other.

Dan found that the blue zone of Okinawa, Japan was joined with the others all over the world including Nuoro, Sardinia, in one significant feature:

Older citizens could still readily articulate the reason they get up in the morning.

Their sense of purpose gives them clear roles of responsibility and feelings of being needed well into their 100s.

But not every purpose is ikigai.

It’s quite possible to be driven and dedicated but without experiencing the true nature of ikigai.

Ikigai is something that brings joy and contentment.

It fills a person with resolve and a sense of satisfaction in what they are doing. Most of all, it brings happiness.

** This is the heart of the EMBL – Success and personal enjoyment can come together in one package. **

What we have done was rarely dull, it was rarely easy, it was rarely unenjoyable, it was an adventure, it was the combination of hard work and enjoyment, the keys to a long happy life…

That is the spirit of what we have enjoyed and endured here in this program.

I suspect many of us in this room came here with an expectation … a prediction of what would be gained.

I also suspect that for many of us what we gained was what we needed more than what we predicted.

Back in June 2014, some 18 months, 8 passport stamps and 30,000 lufthansa miles ago we started on a journey together. This journey has lead us here and into the future.

Now the road divides and our lives change, perhaps it rejoins in the future, it crosses and merges

As we leave this program we are faced with new uncertainties…

The Future: Finding Progress from Chaos

What will this degree mean?

Will I stay in my job?

Will I continue my studies?

Will I continue to live in Switzerland, or America, or China, or Russia, or Austria, or Germany?

Will I see my friends from around the world?

In 2012 one of my best friends told me about the Camino de Santiago in northern spain.

After walking almost 800 kilometres across spain I learned something that I carry with me every day.

Something my best friend told me …

Living life is like being a boxer in the ring, never stop moving or else you will get hit.

I propose that each of us takes one thing away: Change is inevitable, but progress is not.

Fight for that which is valuable, but know when you are fighting for your joy and purpose and know when you are fighting for that predictable worn path.

Do not sacrifice that which you value the most for that which makes sense.

Embrace uncertainty by taking the opportunities that come before us rather than pushing down that worn path towards a predicted finish.

As we sit here today, graduates of the University of St. Gallen, we have just completed a program that is the perfect embodiment of the idea that enjoyment and purpose do come together in a powerful package.

Continue to seek out opportunities as unique as what we’ve just shared and

I have no doubt we will all find the greatest success in the most uncertain and unexpected of places.

Now to move ahead with purpose and joy.

Change is inevitable. Progress is not.

It is your solemn duty to learn how to enjoy yourself.


American Swiss Foundation’s Young Leaders Conference


The American Swiss Foundation’s Young Leaders Conference was initiated in 1990 to create person-to-person exchange and foster mutual understanding among the next generation of leaders in Switzerland and the United States.

Held in Switzerland each year, the Conference brings together approximately 50 Americans and Swiss aged 28-40 for a week of intensive discussion and exchange on a broad range of current issues of importance to American-Swiss relations; meetings with high-level diplomatic, government, business, media, and cultural leaders; and excursions to Switzerland’s beautiful mountains and historic landmarks.

The U.S. participants are carefully selected by a Nominating Committee of the Board of Directors based on outstanding achievement and strong personal recommendations of senior leaders. In Switzerland, participants are selected by the Foundation’s Swiss Advisory Council.

It was my pleasure to be nominated and participate in the 2011 Young Leaders Conference thanks to Her Excellency Ambassador Faith Whittlesey.  There are great issues facing US / Swiss relations which we must address including the United States’ egregious FATCA (Foreign Asset Tax Compliance Act) which unfairly penalizes the greatest source of offshore wealth and foreign direct investment that the United States has had the privilege of enjoying.

All Photos © Robert Agresta 2011 For Public Release


Congratulations Pingwire!  An Agresta Acquisitions affiliate, Aftermath Services Corp. is proud to introduce Pingwire.  Pingwire is nearly every photo posted to Twitter in realtime.  What are people saying?

PingWire creates a live feed that displays a slow, scrolling wall of thumbnail-size versions of photos being posted to Twitter at the moment, and it is hypnotic to watch.

— Paul Boutin
New York Times

From the mundane to the absurd, the innocent to the naughty, the funny to the disturbing, it’s all there playing out for all the world to see.

— Ivan Penn
St. Petersburg Times

With a new picture added about every second it is like seeing a patchwork quilt of global life being sewn – and a people watcher’s dream.

— Kate Russell
BBC News

The temptation to check out other people’s photos proved too much to resist.

— Duncan Geere

Congratulations Aftermath Ventures

I am proud to announce the formation of Aftermath Ventures Inc., an affiliate of Agresta Acquisitions LLC.  Aftermath Ventures (www.aftermath.vc) builds new web/mobile software products in collaboration with entrepreneurs at startups and established businesses.  We are the hybrid of an investment fund and software development services company – designed to reduce risk and gain efficiencies in building and launching new software products.  Our business model emphasizes a revenue share structure, leveraging our partnership with Aftermath Services (www.aftermath.sc), a web/mobile development services company with offices in New York and Santiago, Chile.

Ikigai. Find it and add life to your years and years to your life.

Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is the Japanese equivalent of the French, raison d’être. In English, these translate respectively as: ‘something important one lives for’, and ‘a reason for being’

The Japanese attribute their longevity and overall quality of life to their desire to find ikigai. Unlike our ancestors, why obsess over what the results of our efforts must be when instead we can love ourselves, steadfast in our purpose, confident in our prospects and prosperous in our experience of life.

Credit for this inspiration belongs to Dr. Jane Goodall.

Everyone, according to the Japanese, has a hidden ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.

Tip: Overcoming a Struggle & Deferring Pleasure Improves All Results and Appreciation

Kung fu drop! Hai-Ya!!! Skier: Daron "Rapid Racin" Rahlves Photographer: Mark Fisher

In January 2007, Outside magazine interviewed a little-known ultrarunner named Dean Karnazes.  Ultrarunning or ultramarathoning, is the practice of running races that are sometimes 4 times longer than a standard 26 mile marathon.  Save the math: yes, Dean Karnazes is one of those guys running 100 mile long races.  Why should we listen to what a guy who spends more time running in a day than most of us spend with our eyes open?  Because of exactly that – the struggle.

Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.

– Dean Karnazes, Outdoor Magazine, January 2007.

We live in what has been coined the Age of Anomie.  In other words we live in a time of normlessness, where our free horizon of expectation is maybe just as valuable as that – free.  Our lives have been lost to text messaging, microwave dinners, Internet pornography and Amazon.com.  Once upon a time society would tell us what was sacred, now we have to make things sacred to ourselves in order for them to garner value unto us.

If you want to experience the fullness of life, you have to be content to feel both satiation and hunger; if you’re always stuffed from having gorged on life’s pleasures, you’ll miss out on a whole other dimension of the human experience.

Brett & Kate McKay, The Art of Manliness, March 2011.

It is the delay, the prolonging of the anticipation, that gives us our value when we are willing to impose it upon ourselves.  The sacrifice creates the glory.  Every philosopher from Thoreau to Ayn Rand have emphasized the means and the method over the end and the results.

Money will take you where you want to go, but it will not replace you as the driver.

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Be a man, be a king.

At each moment of man’s life he is either a King or a slave. As he surrenders to a wrong appetite, to any human weakness; as he falls prostrate in hopeless subjection to any condition, to any environment, to any failure, he is a slave. As he day by day crushes out human weakness, masters opposing elements within him, and day by day re-creates a new self from the sin and folly of his past,—then he is a King. He is a King ruling with wisdom over himself. Alexander conquered the whole world except,— Alexander. Emperor of the earth, he was the servile slave of his own passions.

Brett & Kate McKay, Manvotional: The Kingship of Self Control, January 3, 2010.

Photo Courtesy of Teton Gravity Research: Kung fu drop! Hai-Ya!!! Skier: Daron “Rapid Racin” Rahlves Photographer: Mark Fisher

Constructs of a Constitutional Convention

“And the men who hold high places must be the ones to start to mould a new reality closer to the heart.”

                                                  – Geddy Lee [1]

            Like mariners tossed for 250 years in thick weather on an unknown sea who have come upon the earliest glance of the sun, let us take our latitudes and ascertain how far the elements have driven us from our true course.[2]  We are, in fact, like Odysseus, who in a moment of pure reason ordered himself tied to the mast of his ship and his crew to plug their ears lest they succumb to the deadly song of the sirens.[3]  We placed the authority to decide, outside our control, in the hands of our government and they dutifully rowed us onward, their only guide: the Constitution.  Although our government never heard the sirens, they also never heard us imploring them to steer clear of the storm brewing on the horizon.

The anti-federalist prophecies of expansive national government have materialized.  We should hasten to dispatch our representatives to the cause of a second constitutional convention.  The ratifiers prescribed the appropriate remedy in Article V of the Constitution. [4].  The representatives should be instructed by the original intent of the first ratifiers and given the solemn charge of proposing amendments that will make the practice of the government better satisfy that intent.[5]

I. The Parameters of the Convention

            The instant problem is how to set out the mandate of the convention.  The founders’ blanket criterion of “evaluating the constitution on its ability to endure” offers little guidance.  Ours will specifically need a scope of authority similar to the 1787 convention.[6]  The first convention’s mandate was only to amend the Articles of Confederation.  The present convention should be bound to the Article V rules of calling a “Convention for proposing Amendments, which … shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three-fourths thereof.”[7]

When the founding fathers cast aside their mandate to amend the Articles of Confederation[8] and set out to design a national government that acted on individuals as opposed to states, they set the first American precedent for invoking prerogative.  Because only 11 of the 13 states ratified a document that exceeded the mandate of the convention, there is an alternative argument that the 11 states, which entered into the new union thereby seceded from the Articles of Confederation, leaving Rhode Island and North Carolina as the only two states left.

The statesman’s right to use prerogative is natural and inalienable.  The paradox of “using the text of a document to authorize changes to that same document” lends  supremacy over the convention to the best delegate.  He would know every rule of the convention and thus he would also know that he wasn’t bound by the rules of the convention.  Once the new drafters are convened, the answer to the meta-question of who has the power to decide becomes self-evident: they do.

The prevailing point is that the original drafters invoked prerogative, of which,   John Locke was also an early proponent.  He defined prerogative as the authority of a ruler or government to violate the law for the benefit of the whole, later to be confirmed by the whole.[9]  When their work product was ultimately confirmed (ratified) by 11 of the 13 states, the founders’ action was sanctified.  If prerogative is invoked again, a criterion for evaluating the success or failure this constitution will be whether it can be confirmed by the whole.

II. Substantive Decisions


History teaches us that the disparate opinions of the disparate states will appear amongst the delegates.  The states-righters and nationalists, republicans and democrats and urban and rural ought to clash and ultimately compromise on middle-ground as Madison predicted would happen early on in 1787.[10]  In other words, this convention is likely to produce a similar work product to that of the first convention: something within the 40-yard lines.  As the ancient Greek philosopher Thales proclaimed: unity is found among diversity.[11]

Like the original framers, our convention must look to the ancient Greeks such as Plato[12], Solon and Thales for the cogs of a constitutional apparatus.  Solon said that he gave his people not the best constitution he could design, but the best that they would accept.[13]  His idea of a constitution was one of laws driven by demonstrable truth and proof.[14]  Thales’ theme was unity through diversity, which became the motto of the US Constitutional structure: ‘E Pluribus Unum’ or ‘out of many, one’.[15]  Plato identified the seven constitutions and warned that in the rule by one, a monarchy may devolve into a tyranny; in the rule by few an aristocracy may devolve into an oligarchy and in the rule by the many, a democracy may devolve into a mob-archy.[16]  When the founders looked to Plato, they decided that the best option was a blend.

Irrespective of whether the convention invokes prerogative or abides Article V, many of the 1787 premises still resonate.  The same debate between states rights and a strong national government existed at the time of the original convention.[17]  We are still searching for the appropriate degree of power to be vested in each coordinate branch of government; we still want our constitution to be an enduring charter of freedom, yet we still have states that contend their right to nullify or even secede from the compact; and we still fear tyranny above all else, just at the framers “wiffed it” in every breeze.[18]

Just as Heraclitus said that you can “not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you”[19], it would be an outright falsehood to say that all of the necessary conditions, which lead to the outcome of the first constitutional convention remain in place today.  Notwithstanding that logic, the keystone emotive understanding of the greatest evil as tyranny and the greatest good as liberty continues to emanate from the penumbras of our souls.[20] The founders knew that power’s victim was liberty.[21]  The drafters of any revised Constitution must bear in mind as necessities, whether the amended constitution will absolutely restrict the government’s use of power to the protection of liberty as the founders did.  Power is aggressive and liberty is always “skulking about in corners” lamented John Adams.[22]  The fountainhead principle of our convention shall be that the only appropriate use of power is the defence of liberty.

If the ancients provided the cogs of our republic, then John Locke who said “all political power is the right to make laws with the attached penalty of death”, provided the motor. Locke drew a distinction between the laws of man and natural law, or laws derived from God.  He invoked the question, “who shall be Judge?”[23]  This question became the construct question of evaluating every constitutional issue.  Is it to be decided by state or federal; executive, legislative or judiciary; congress or constitution or convention (prerogative)?

Locke said that at the core level, man would prefer to be in a state of pure nature, even with its anarchy, than he would to be in an absolute monarchy. The framers spent much of their time debating protections against just such a monarchy.  James Madison said “The accumulation of powers in the same hands … may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”[24]

A cardinal difference in degree between the 1787 convention and this one is that we are called to order by fear of tyranny and an overpowering national government.  Ironically, the first convention was called for fears of anarchy under the Articles of Confederacy.[25]  (This is not to refute that the delegates of the 1787 convention feared tyranny most, or that every revolutionary principle was the abhorrence of tyranny, only that the impetus for the convention was a fear of anarchy.)  Thus, this convention will be spirited towards federal purity, as opposed to stronger nationalism.  If there is a spectrum ranging from 0% states rights to 100% states rights, in order to be ratified, the amendments planned by the new convention should be plus or minus 10% of what the original framers gave us at the first convention if it is not to be too radical for ratification.  As Solon and the founders knew, you cannot give the people a better constitution than that which they will accept.[26]

The new convention must also contemplate where this Constitution derives its own power – the people or the states.    By virtue of that decision, it must then also consider upon whom it may act, the people of the nation, the state governments, or the body of people within each state.  This was critical in debate on the ratification to the original constitution.[27]  Special state constitutional conventions were to be called to better reflect the will of the people within that state.  Thus if the majority within that state were to fail to ratify at the special convention, that state would not have acceded to the union.  If that state had the power to accede to the union, it then must as a corollary have the power to secede.[28]

The new constitution should interpret whether a state may nullify a law passed by the federal government or secede from the union and conversely whether the federal government may negative a state law as the framers did.[29]  This is critical to defining the line between state and federal power.  If a state has the power to secede from the union, it therefore – as a lesser power – has the ability to nullify federal law.  This is propounded in debate by Hayne invoking James Madison’s name and calling nullification the “extreme medicine of the state.”[30]  It should be addressed explicitly in the constitution.  If it is possible, to secede or nullify, then there should be a special tribunal created to adjudicate disputes between states and the federal government to prevent another nullification crisis.

The drafters should also consider whether it is ever appropriate to have the federal government do a task that could be done better by a state.  The Articles of Confederation read “Each state shall retain and enjoy as much of its present Laws, Rights and Customs, as it may think fit, and reserves to itself the sole and exclusive regulation and government of its internal police.”[31]  As William Patterson noted: despite the fact that the Articles of Confederation had tried pure state sovereignty,[32] state sovereignty was still more popular with the people in June of 1787 than a strong national government.[33]  He went on to note that when concentration of power occurred in a national legislature in England, it was like a “poison” and were it not for the purity of the tribunals of justice, private rights would want for security.[34]

The gradual loss of states rights is not a trivial and ought to give us pause.  States rights and individual liberty are inextricably linked. A greater degree of national government means certain states (viewed as regions of population) are more likely to feel their liberty constrained under excessive use of pre-emption while others are more likely to benefit. Moreover, the same outcome could be resolved on a state-by-state basis if left to their devises.  A smaller federal government necessarily implies more regionalization, a net gain in the average liberty felt by a given individual and a greater number of individuals that perceive that gain in their liberty. In other words, what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander and states rights beget greater freedom.

The new constitution must contemplate which powers it concentrates in which branches of government and whether it properly sets one power in opposition to another.  This was considered by the framers and expounded by Gouvernor Morris in 1787.[35]  It must ultimately decide whether the document will impose negative rights on the federal government by enjoining it from acting in all areas not explicitly delegated by the constitution or positive rights permitting it to act in almost any circumstance. The 10th Amendment to the US Constitution leads us to believe that our present constitution is a document of negative rights reserving the remainder to the states, while the necessary & proper clause, combined with the general welfare and supremacy clauses, lead us to believe the converse. This debate was at the forefront for the framers[36] and  continues today.

In Federalist 10, Madison is concerned about ideological collections of power called faction but asserts that the geographical expanse of America will make it impossible for the majority to find itself.[37]  Modern technology changes all this.  Constitutional republics more frequently degrade into anarchy than tyranny, thus if the ideological faction is permitted from the majority, how will the new constitution handle it?

Through regionalization and reduction in the size of the federal government, the earliest federal powers would return to prominence.  Those being primarily the military powers and the courts, as exhibited by the stated purpose of the Articles of Confederation as “for their (the States) common Defence, the Security of their Liberties, and their mutual and general Welfare.”[38]  This adaptation would refocus energy on national security, making us more powerful abroad.

We should employ the same criteria for analysis as the drafters if we are to amend our constitution.  If we fail to employ these, we will feel the loss of liberty and will find ourselves on the slippery slope towards socialism and tyranny.  We may suffer the loss of the American dream and even civil war as our union is torn asunder.  Like Odysseus who ordered his sailors to strap him to the mast, if we are to unbind ourselves and re-mold our plan, we must be in a place of even higher reason to re-bind ourselves to a new constitution that will endure.

[1] Rush. Closer to the Heart. 1977.

[2] Daniel Webster, Second Reply to Hayne, U.S. Senate, Jan. 26, 1830.

[3] If I Implore You and Order You to Set Me Free p. 561

[4] US Const. Article V, 1776.

[5] As expressed in the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers.

[6] From Charles Warren, The Making of the Constitution (1928) p. 16 re: The Supremacy Clause and the Negative.

[7] US Const. Art. V

[8] Records of the Federal Convention, The Progress of the Supremacy Clause, James Madison Wednesday May 30.  (RB Supp. 463)

[9] From Blecker: Policing the Boundaries on Locke’s 2nd Treatise (RB Supp. 197)

[10] James Madison to George Washington April 16, 1787 (Antifederalist Papers p. 32)

[11] Constitutionalism in Ancient Greece, Blecker (RB Supp p. 25.)

[12] The Federalist Papers, no. 49, p. 310 James Madison

[13] Constitutionalism in Ancient Greece, Blecker (RB Supp p. 25.)

[14] Id.

[15] Constitutionalism in Ancient Greece, Blecker (RB Supp p. 17)

[16] Constitutionalism in Ancient Greece, Blecker (RB Supp p. 78)

[17] Id.

[18] Speech on Conciliation With the Colonies, Edmund Burke.

[19] Constitutionalism in Ancient Greece, Blecker (RB Supp p. 74.)

[20] Power and Liberty: A Theory of Politics, Chapter III, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bernard Bailyn p. 82.

[21] Power and Liberty: A Theory of Politics, Chapter III, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bernard Bailyn p. 82.

[22] Id. 83.

[23] From Blecker: Policing the Boundaries on Locke’s 2nd Treatise (RB Supp. 205)

[24] Federalist 47 James Madison (Federalist Papers p. 298)

[25] Federalist 15 Alexander Hamilton (Federalist Papers p. 100)

[26] Constitutionalism in Ancient Greece, Robert Blecker p. 25

[27] Method of Ratification (Antifederalist Papers p. 126-127)

[28] As argued by Webster characterizing Hayne on p. 729

[29] Debate on Veto of State Laws (Antifederalist Papers p. 82)

[30] Webster/Hayne Debate (RB Supp. 746)

[31] Articles of Confederation: First Draft (Dickinson Draft) Article III (RB Supp. P. 400)

[32] Debate of the New Jersey Plan, June 16, 1787 (The Anti-Federalist Papers, p. 69)

[33] Id. p. 65

[34] Id. P. 68

[35] Debate on State Equality in the Senate, Gourverneur Morris (Anti-Federalist Papers p. 107)

[36] Opposition to the Constitution, George Mason, September 7, 10, 15, (Anti-federalist Papers p. 175)

[37] Federalist 10, James Madison (Federalist Papers p. 72)

[38] Articles of Confederation: First Draft (Dickinson Draft) Article III (RB Supp. P. 400)

Your Property Taxes at Work

This article [article here] appeared in the Bergen Record on August 4th, 2009. It refers to the Englewood Cliffs mayor and Borough Council having adopted a $12.7 million budget for 2009 — down 3.8% from last years $13.8 million budget.  Mayor Parisi was quoted as to how the budget was reduced.  The article leaves one to conclude that the municipal portion of the tax bill will decrease.  That is not true. The amounts referred to in the budget include amounts that do not affect your local taxes.  Look at the enclosed schedule [schedule here] and in particular the circled dollar amounts.  The mayor is referring to Line 7 whereas Line 6 is “Amount to be raised by Taxes for Support of Municipal Budget”.  That is what our taxes are based on.  That shows an increase of about 5%, not a decrease.

Refer also to “Proposed Calculation of 2009 Estimated Tax Rate”.  You will see that the local budget for 2008 was $9,537,932 and the adopted budget for local purposes for 2009 was $10,059,901, an increase of just over 5%.  That document was signed by the Borough’s Chief Financial officer.  This confirms that there is actually an increase and not a 3.8% decrease.

Although the increase was less than it would have been as a result of Councilmen Agresta & Petrone fighting for line item reductions on the appropriations side, ultimately the council approved a budget that cut into the borough’s $1.5 MM surplus overruling Councilman Agresta & Petrone at the introduction of the budget by a vote of 4-2.  At the public hearing after the introduction, when it came time for adoption of the budget, Councilman Agresta lead a heated debate and arrived at a compromise.  Councilman Agresta agreed to vote for the budget on the contingency that Mayor Parisi would change the procedure for establishing the budget for 2010.  For the 2009 budget, the Parisi process used to establish the budget works like this:

  1. Department head instructed to build a budget
  2. Department head reviews prior year budget and attempts to anticipate coming years needs
  3. Department head brings budget to Mayor & Council to discuss
  4. Mayor & Council has final decision on acceptance of the proposed departmental budget.

The Agresta & Petrone system of budget approval would work like this:

  1. Department head is instructed to show council what it would take to cut their departmental budget by 5%, 10% and 15%
  2. Department head presents all 3 budgets to the Mayor & Council
  3. Mayor & Council approves one of the 3 departmental budgets or a no-reduction budget.

So what’s the advantage to the Agresta system over the Parisi system?  The Parisi system gives department heads free reign over their budgets, while the Agresta system forces department heads to identify areas where there is fat that can be trimmed.  By requiring a 5%, 10% and 15% reduction on a departmental basis, the fattest departments can be cut more than the leaner ones.

A vote was also taken on something called the Budget Appropriations Cap which is further explained here.

I Know this Much is True

WASHINGTON, DC — Tea parties are springing up across America demanding tax reform and a reduction in government as the solution to our economic crisis. These Americans believe that ingenuity is all the stimulus that we need. The iconic images reluctantly broadcast by the mainstream media show middle-americans marching around with signs bearing quotes from their favorite framer or zealously waiving a Gadsden flag epically subtitled “Don’t tread on me”.

On C-SPAN last week, a noted university professor — who we will just call “the Professor” – touted the benefits Keynsian economics and the need for the government to print and spend your money in order to “prime the pump.” This economist was not only mistaken but he was just flat out wrong.

Keynsian economics (“Obamanomics”) is an effort to marginalize decades of economic theory. This particular commentator even went as far as claiming that the few economists who disagreed with Obamanomics were on the fringe of the economic world.

The pro-individualist protesters are right and I am convinced because of one man.

Among the “fringe” economists that the Professor was referring to is a man named Milton Friedman. Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976 and his brand of political economy can be summed up in a sharp banner.

He once said that “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”

Friedman understood that no society can succeed as a welfare state, because to grow, individuals must first have the freedom to act in their self-interest. The embarrassing truth is the illusion of opportunity that is created by redistributing from the worthy to the unworthy. Consider this analogy:

If we think of capitalism as a race where your rank is determined only in relation to everyone else, then no growth can ever occur in a welfare state because everyone who takes a full step forward is then shoved back into place by the government. The government then pulls the remainder of society a stutter step forward to “prime the pump” or worse yet, the ones who are furthest behind are pulled two or three steps ahead. The moral is that equality of opportunity can only be created when the government refuses to make judgment calls about worthiness and treats everyone according to their rights under the Constitution. Everyone deserves nothing more and nothing less than the right to earn their rank. American citizenship — at its core – is but a ticket to the starting line.

Shame on those in power who want to marginalize the protesters and divert attention away from Americans who are in real pain.

I know this much is true: even amongst the protesters, some will be worthy and some will not — but the fear of not knowing their ability — of being unable to ride the glory of their own success – will drive them to the brink of shambles.

Their anger is not manufactured in some right-wing laboratory; it is as real as their sad depleted paychecks. Having once felt the rising euphoria of triumph, the disappointment of knowing that your own government is working double time to foreclose that chance is just too much to take. They believe, as I do, that this is treason.

We have been double-crossed by our Congress, we have been double-crossed by our Supreme Court and we have been double-crossed by our President. Breaking decorum in an open session of Congress during a speech made by the President of the United States, Congressman Joe Wilson from South Carolina shouted “You lie.” The look of anger that crossed the Speaker’s face as she sat behind the President was only trumped by the unmistakable look of terror that crossed the Vice President’s. Joe Wilson’s words are not his own, but an echo of the thoughts of so many other legislators in the minority that were seated in those chambers alongside him. But as unforgiveable as Wilson’s break of congressional procedure was, it is nothing but a pittance when compared to the majority’s departure from a much more important charter – the charter that is our liberty – The Constitution of the United States of America.

Will Atlas Shrug?

Consider the state of our nation:

1. Government is moving to nationalize private industry under the guise of terms like “bailout”.

2. Government is moving to create “fairness” on public radio by limiting small-government favoring correspondents in favor of more big-government reporting.

3. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged novel (a 50-year old prophetic prediction of our current economic status) sales jump up incrementally with every anti-capitalist move made by the Obama administration.

4. Small-government correspondents like Glenn Beck, John Batchelor and Rick Santelli start predicting a depression and subsequent end to America and foresee a second revolution in our future.

5. 12 new states legislate their ability to secede from the union into their state constitutions within the span of a week, re-invigorating the pre-revolutionary states rights argument.

6. Missouri state government issues its “Modern Militia Report” noting that potential threats include those with Ron Paul or Bob Barr stickers on their cars or are members of the Constitution Party.

7. Every time President Obama says hope, the Dow Jones responds with signs of despair.

8. Projects like the Libertarian Free State Project to take over a loosly populated state like New Hampshire or Wyoming pick up steam.

9. New York Times is reporting that people are “Going Galt” or preparing to shrug of their overweight government:

The doctors, lawyers, engineers, executives, serious small-business owners, top salespeople, and other professionals and entrepreneurs who make this country run work considerably harder than pretty much anyone else (including most of the chattering class, and all politicians). They are not robber barons, or trust-fund babies, or plutocrats, or even celebrities. They are mostly the meritocrats who worked hard in high school and got into the better colleges and grad schools, where they studied while others partied. They pushed through grueling hours and unpleasant “up or out” policies in their twenties and thirties at top law firms, banks, hospitals, and businesses to earn salaries in the solid six figures (or low seven) today — in their peak earning years. Their work ethic is prodigious, and … in their spare time they sit on the boards of most of the complex charities and arts institutions that provide aid and pay for culture in America. No group of people contribute more to their community. And now the president, who followed a path sort of like that, and who claims that his wife’s former six-figure income was a result of precisely such qualifications and efforts, is demonizing them. More problematically, he is penalizing their success and giving them very clear incentives to ratchet back on productivity.

So, what happens when the heart surgeons, dentists, litigators, and people who employ 10 or 20 other people in their mid-size businesses decide that they don’t want to pay for the excessive, pointless spending that the president finds so compelling? Instapundit speculates on people“going John Galt.” I think golf — a time-intensive sport that the hard-working have eschewed for the past decade or two because it took too long — will make a comeback.

– NY Times Going Galt: Everyone’s Doing It! 3-6-2009

10. The government targets the men of means, those whose effort have proven them able-bodied, by attacking them with the long arm of the law. All in a plan to stifle them and perpetuate the grand plan of delivering the strong from victory and enabling the weak. Why? To keep a controlled and docile population.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is America; this is exactly what our forefathers warned us about. Our national government gathers its power from our consent through our 50 sovereign states. Only we have the power to lead this nation in a new path and “mold a new reality” closer to our hearts.

The author of this article, Robert A. Agresta is an elected Councilman in the Borough of Englewood Cliffs, NJ and a third year law student at New York Law School.